Twice during my south Minneapolis childhood, I came home from school to find my home in shreds. The thief stole a lot, including $11 from my zebra purse. My mom paid me back. My mom’s car was stolen on Mother’s Day. In college, My friend and I were robbed at gunpoint right before another student was shot. We were walking from one dorm to the next on the University of Minnesota campus.

On Tuesday night in Kenya, someone broke into my house while I was there. The cops never came.

The traumatizing moments have drawn me closer to God. I’m so confused about my fate but somehow I believe I’m protected. My mom says it isn’t time for me to go. I have air in my lungs and hair on my head.

It’s only that I find it hard to laugh and smile.

Kiya Still in Kenya

After an immigration hiccup, I am back in the blogging world.

Tis the Season to Leave Nairobi

Goodness, gracious. I’ve been busy. Albeit, not American-busy, as I do sleep and eat. God, do I eat. Yet, compared to the first few weeks, I’ve now found projects to keep myself occupied. I’ve been here for three and-a-half months, but I don’t deserve bragging rights yet. When I reach six months, you better believe I’m celebrating. When I reach a year? Oo-ee! Oh… right. New information. I plan to be here for one to three years, which was the pre-arrival plan. But don’t hold me to it. Every day, I change my mind about how long I’d like to stay.

Parking lot: Didja know that ex-exchange students are prone to becoming bipolar? They can become such different personalities in their home and host countries that they develop the disorder. So, if I’ve called three countries home— the States, Germany, and Kenya— am I at risk of becoming tripolar? Not bad, for a Tr3. #ZetaReference 😉

Anyway. Everyone back home keeps asking me when I’m coming back. To them, I ask this: when will you visit me, dear friend? My closest friends and family say they can’t afford to visit me. That is exactly my issue as well. I’m officially living off my credit card. So, I’ll come when I come. And I promise to let you know as soon as I do. For now, I plan to stay as long as my contract allows.

Ah, the job situation. I realize my last written post sounded pessimistic. After many tears and conversations, I decided that it ain’t about the money, honey. I declined the paid editing job in order to finish my A24 internship. Producing and presenting this new fashion show is a dream job. I’d like to do similar work for the rest of my life. I want to be an intelligent and articulate on-air personality for a culturally savvy show. Right now, I love my multifarious role because I’m allowed a huge say about content and presentation. I delegate tasks to others, like Mike, an incredible intern whose editing skills have wowed me. Speaking of wow, I’ve purposely kept the show’s title from you. It hasn’t been released yet, so we’ve been using “Wow” as a code name.

Mike and I finished editing the pilot on November 25th. The Wow baby was born on my birthday! It’s a fashion show, so whenever we joke about that, I picture a smiling baby with long eyelashes wearing a glittery bow. And with each episode, it should grow into an amazing and inspiring TV program. That Monday, we presented it to our CEOs, COO, and head of finance. Our important audience loved the show and requested a trailer for potential sponsors. We’ve distributed it to many and have met with one so far. Good things are happening. It’s going down in 2012!

About the payment situation? Things are looking up. I must still finish my three-month internship. After January 10th, I should be getting paid for my current company roles. I’ve also been producing stories for Africa Journal, the company’s pride. I’d started a story about rhinos, but another intern took over once I became busy with the other show. Lenny said I should focus on that.

However, in order to have two weeks off for Christmas, future AJ episodes needed to be completed. So, I was assigned a story on Adé Bantu, a sexy Nigerian-German musician and activist. No, I didn’t include the sexy part. That was already apparent in the footage. Duh! Anyway. We managed to finish all shows preceding January 7th, and I’m drinking a beer at Valencia Gardens at 4pm on a Tuesday. I’m on holiday! And besides being homesick, I couldn’t be happier.

Valencia Gardens is a special place. My boyfriend, Kevin, lives next door; and I live just a street away. This is our convenient meeting place. It has a huge garden, hence the name, and the staff doesn’t suck—which is a big deal for this country, where customer service doesn’t exist and neither do my tips.

I also celebrated my birthday here. Ishirini na Tatu, or 23 in Swahili, was a mediocre event. As mentioned, I spent the day at the office. In the evening, about 20 people came to the restaurant. Apparently we went dancing afterward, but I don’t remember. 23-too-many shots. Just kidding, kind of. But the birthday was fine. Certainly not my best birthday (nothing can top my 16th in Germany), and not even my favorite day in Kenya. But to glimpse the festivities, and my office tour, check out this Facebook video.

The Sunday after my birthday, some friends and I went to Nanyuki for Blankets and Wine, a monthly concert typically held in Nairobi. Exhausted from my birthday, I wasn’t going to come until I discovered that Kevin would be performing. I’m officially his groupie for having gone just to see him. But the man is amazing. He was on Tusker Project Fame, Kenya’s version of American Idol. Remember when I almost worked for that soap opera? Well, we met on set that day. And, uh, things have progressed nicely. He lived in the States for six years, so whenever I make a reference to something as specific as Trader Joes, he gets me. We foreigners really hold onto those connections. I was initially apprehensive to announce our relationship because what do I look like but some Antiguan-American lady who goes to Kenya and falls in love? But I promise not to come home engaged this time. Although, Kevin does want to move back to the States sooner than later. And I’m pretty sure I’ve made Minneapolis sound like the coolest city on Earth. We’ll see what the future holds…

Oh, I ended up in the paper again.

Back in Nairobi, I managed to renew my visa for three more months. I also made a friend at immigration! Sydney is from New Mexico but currently works at a hospital in rural Kenya. I told her about my hardships with pursuing media in the capital city, and she told me she lives in a tent, has delivered a baby outside, and was recently stung by a scorpion. We chatted in line and, by the end of the two-hour process, the staff thought we were lifelong friends. They even took our fingerprints together. It’s not everyday you bond with an American tent girl at immigration. So, we agreed to keep in touch. We’re actually meeting tomorrow in Machakos, a town two hours from where she lives. It’s the nearest place she can get goods like wine and chocolate. Bless.

I tend to latch onto Americans. One day, moments after I got into a taxi, a man approached the window and said, “Oops, I didn’t realize someone was in there. I’ll find another one.” Before I even knew where he was going, I told him to get in the car! He was the first and only black American I’ve met in this country. So, we split the cab and exchanged stories. I haven’t seen him since, but hearing his accent for just 20 minutes in traffic was enough to bring me back home.

James “Noggz” Kamawe also does that for me. He’s the friend I mentioned in my last video post who’s Kenyan but has lived in Atlanta for the past 10 years. I call him my freelancing manager because he constantly finds projects for me to do independently or for his company, Circle Group Entertainment. Our first was a video for the Kenya International Film Festival. We then filmed and edited a church choir competition. To see what freelancing in Kenya in like, watch this silly video! We’re currently working on a Kenyan Hip-Hop documentary. We even went to Diani Beach, near Mombasa, Kenya to film an underground concert. I’m no expert, but that was the best rap I’ve ever heard.

‎”Dusty-footed… how long shall i be blinded with days governed by local brew?
N cast my future on false hopes n promises of CHANGE.
My thirst, my fight for common mans RIGHT,
can only be quenched by a calabash FULL of better-days-waters.”

Hustlajay, Mombasa

So, James and I are having fun while hustling. He says, “Everybody wants a house that’s already been built. Nobody wants to build their own.” I’m going to miss him when he goes back in February.

Greetings from the Coast!

Wellp, that’s the mammoth post. But first, one more thing: I drove a car in Kenya! On the left side! Ah, but besides avoiding recurring potholes and flipping on the wipers instead of the turn signals, it was great!

Thanks for reading,



So You Think You Can Blog

I do multimedia. See?

My, Was I Misled

My life should be a reality show. You’d likely be entertained. Now, can I adequately represent it in this blog?

Let’s start where I left off— with Nic, a great friend and resource. He’s already introduced me to several media professionals. In addition to running his own film company and co-hosting a travel show, he acts on Mali, Kenya’s first soap opera. He helped me get an interview there as a video editor. The experience was unconventional, as I shadowed employees, but it went well. Being in a new environment felt refreshing. The deal was to come back in a few days, edit two episodes for trial, and potentially get the job.

I felt good about that until I got home. I thought about what it would mean to work 12-hour days and half days on Saturdays. I was turned off. By American standards, the hours aren’t worth the pay. I could make more by bagging groceries for a week. But my Minnesotan Quaker friends taught me how to live in the present moment. Kiya, you’re in Kenya.

The next day, clouds opened.

As mentioned, I’m producing a new fashion TV show as an unpaid intern producer. At an all-staff meeting last week, I was categorized as a trial employee. Also last week, a text from a new friend asked how my slaveternship was going. I just love that! I must’ve come across as overworked. Eh, very well. Allow me to proudly accept my role as slavetern. Imagine if I put that or trial employee on my resume:

Trial Employee                                                              October 2011 until deemed worthy

Anyway, the new show needed a host, so we held auditions. My fabulous co-producer, Lenny, originally said that I’m not allowed to audition. Something about being behind the scenes. But our COO encouraged me to do so anyway. I rehearsed the script that morning. Once called, I entered feeling slightly nervous but mostly excited. I feel comfortable on camera, and the atmosphere enabled me to prove that. The audition was fun and I left it feeling good. Not long after, Lenny came downstairs and told me he hated me.

Later that day, I found out I got the gig. I was so happy!

The evening before I left for Kenya, my former Mapps Coffees boss invited me over for dinner. She introduced me to Turkish coffee. According to legend, the coffee grounds left in the cup after it has been tipped over tell the drinker’s future. It’s prophetic, delicious, and caffeinated. Take that, fortune cookie! . . . Apparently, the grounds depicted me happily working a dream job in Kenya. I remembered the fortune when Lenny asked me to host the show’s first shoot in less than 24 hours.

I was eager to accept, but I needed to make sure I’d be paid. One of many lessons I’ve learned here is: address money right away. If you don’t, you shan’t receive. A friend told me that if you can hustle in Nairobi, you could hustle anywhere. So, I took a breath and asked. I did tell him that, just yesterday, I’d gotten the opportunity to work with a new company and, get ready, they pay. Although, I still had to do the two trial episodes. Okay, seriously, this trial employee concept is too foreign.

When I exhaled, I was still alive. He ensured I’d be paid because if a non-slavetern had been chosen as host, they’d surely be.

My, was I misled. I don’t want it to sound like it’s his fault because he meant well. It was just a premature judgment. Long story short, I went on three amazing shoots between Friday and Tuesday, when I was finally able to talk about payment with the COO. He informed me that the company isn’t ready to pay me. He said they can’t invest in me if the show hasn’t been sold and thus isn’t yet making money for the company. (We produce content and sell it to broadcasters.) He said if someone had been selected outside of the company, she’d have to do the pilot episode for free, too. He said internships are unpaid and, after three months, the individual is considered for hire. I completely held it together during the meeting. I asked a few questions but mostly I was quiet because I was shocked. But afterward, when my coworker asked how it went, I cried… and I didn’t stop for about five hours, I swear. I was devastated. I thought I had a job. Dreams of moving into my own space, finally unpacking my suitcases, buying a plane ticket home, and paying student loans vanished so suddenly.

I had a rough week. Icing: I finally went to immigration only to have a lazy man tell me to come back on December 1st, two days before my visa expires. It’s almost laughable. He looked at me like, why on earth would you plan ahead? Then, I took a stupid matatu home. It had to be the kind that just doesn’t feel like brining you to your destination even though you’ve paid. I was truly Africa’d out.

Is happiness at the bottom of this bag of fries? Is success at the bottom of this ice cream bowl? No, I’m just gaining weight. And it’s not okay.

Thanks for reading,



That’s Not My Name

Minutes after posting my last blog, I discovered my face in The Standard newspaper’s celebrity gossip section. Beneath a close up of Nic and me, the caption reads:


Kenya’s Big Brother Amplified
representative Nic Wang’ondu
is currently in the Maasai Mara
with his Big Brother love, Kim
from Zambia. The two who had
a brief fling during the reality
show were reunited during
former Big Brother housemates
tour last weekend and Kim
opted to remain behind, no
doubt, to clear unfinished
business with Nic!

Uhm, what? I’m not Kim from Zambia, I’m Kiya from USA. Why is my face associated with this story? Terrible reporting. Nic wasn’t even in the Maasai Mara this week. The article is completely invented.

Thanks for reading,



Geckos, Vultures, and Wasps, Oh My!

About the blog title? Just enjoying the wildlife 🙂

Inside, Camerapix is awesome. I love my internship. I’ve been writing scripts and recording voiceovers for Africa’s Voice, a new Africa 24 Media series about African culture. The other day, I sort of got promoted. One of the men in charge says I’m now a producer, and another says I’m an “intern producer.” Hmm. For now, I know that I’m producing a new fashion series, whether that makes me a producer or not…? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I already started editing a filler photo segment. I’m proud of it. For this project, I’m working closely with a new producer who just transferred from KTN. He looks like my fraternity brother from back home. So, no matter how much as we argue, I like his presence. (Ha,ha, I hope you’re reading this, goof!)

Most of my friends know about my pop culture deficiency. Ironic, I know, considering I’m in media. BUT! I’m so proud to announce that because of Kenya’s TV-watching culture, I am now in the loop! You guys, I watch E! I could tell you the names of all the Kardashians. I could tell you who’s pregnant.

Before, I only followed these few shows: the news, the news, and the news. Just kidding, I also followed Weeds, True Blood, and Big Brother. My close friends back home especially know that Big Brother is my SHOW! I’ve watched it every summer since I was 10. I’ve almost applied to be a houseguest twice. I’m pretty sure I’ll go through with it this year because I have fewer responsibilities. Now, in addition to my new celebrity awareness, the craziest thing happened. Monica, her friend Jackie, Jackie’s cousin and I were hanging out last week and I suddenly learn that her cousin was on Big Brother Africa! The 2011 Kenyan contestant himself. I usually don’t get starstruck, but I flipped my shhh because that is seriously my show. Then, he invited us to a Big Brother reunion party, in support of an anti-jiggers campaign. Good times.

So, I’m having fun. I meet new people often. Yet I’m so worried about finances. If this new producer role leads to employment, I hesitate leaving for the BBC East Africa internship. I don’t want to leave what I’m building. But who knows what could happen at such an accredited place as the BBC! I’m supposed to start in November. That’s in a few days, and, despite my communication attempts, I have no details about when exactly I’ll start or how often I should be there. We shall see…

My other newest endeavor is to model.

There’s so much happening here. Most people are worried about the recent terrorist attacks. If you don’t know about it, find out.

I think I’ve covered most events of the past couple weeks. Oh! The big one: I no longer have a plane ticket back home! Yep, that’s pretty important. Actually, I think I should write a book about what not to do abroad. It includes buying a one-way ticket, living with your ex, and depending on him to pay for your ticket back home. But, you know what? “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” I will find a way. Always do.

Thanks for reading,